May 31

For seniors and people with disabilities, the kitchen can be an unfriendly place. Sure, more people have accidents in the bathroom but the kitchen isn’t far behind. Here are some tips to make the kitchen safer and easier to use by making things accessible.

Buying the right refrigerator can make a big impact. Look for a water and ice dispenser on the outside. Doors should open all the way to 180 degrees so it’s easy to get to food inside and side-by-side doors are the best for people in wheelchairs because it’s impossible to reach a freezer that is on top. Also look for shelves that can be adjusted by turning a knob.

Customized extension drawers that pull out or a Lazy Susan make things easier to find and reach. Lazy Susan turntables can be bought at most home improvement stores and pull-out extensions drawers are fairly simple to install.

A Step Stool with a long handle is a safe way to reach items from cupboards. Look for a single step stool with a wide base to prevent falling ar tipping over. A sturdy handle gives something to hold on to for additional stability.

Electric Kitchen Cabinets

If you want to get a little creative, install electric kitchen cabinets that raise and lower at the touch of a button. When you need something from the cabinet, push the button and they lower to counter-top level. Push the button again and they raise up to their normal position. While ideal for wheelchair users, electric cabinets can be used by anyone in the family, even children.

Electric Kitchen Sink

An adjustable-height electric sink works in the same manner. Push a button and the sink lowers for convenient washing of dishes. Push the button again and it returns to counter level. Again, ideal for wheelchair users and children.

A good general rule to follow is keep food and frequently used kitchen items within reach. Heavy things should always be placed in lower cabinets and never up high.

Not everybody is going to add electric sinks and cabinets to their kitchen but it’s nice to know there are kitchen modifications available for those that truly need them. Consult with a barrier-free home modification specialist for ways to make your kitchen safer and more accessible.

May 10

Some call it a growing trend. Others say it’s a movement. The formal name is Visitability and its purpose is to make homes safer and easier to use for the owners and people visiting.

Visitability (visit-ability) is similar to Universal Design with fewer requirements, but the intent is the same. A home should be accessible for everyone – easy to enter, easy to move around in, and have a bathroom on the main floor.

Visitability

To be more specific, a home is visitable if it meets the following requirements:

1. A zero-step entrance accessible from the sidewalk or driveway

2. Doors inside the home have 32-inches of clearance space for passage

3. At least one bathroom on the main floor of the home

The intent of these requirements is to make it possible for the homeowner or visitors to the home to easily enter and move around the home in a wheelchair.

Many new homes are being built with these requirements in mind, and they should be. Nobody knows how long he or she will live in their home or who will live there if they move out. By designing new homes to these specifications it ensures homes will be livable and visitable for everyone.

What’s more important is to realize how our population is aging. Baby Boomers are retiring and their numbers are enormous. People are living longer than ever before, well into their 80s and 90s. Making homes accessible to an older population is necessary.

If you aren’t old enough to need visitability requirements in your own home yet, you may have parents, grandparents, or friends who need the extra accessibility features that a visitable home provides. And if you plan to live in your home for the rest of your life, at some point you will need these features and certainly your friends who visit will need them too.

Adding a bathroom to a main floor where one doesn’t already exist is the most expensive and time-consuming visitability requirement to add. So if you’re shopping around for a new home for yourself or an elderly loved-one, look for a main floor bathroom.

To add clearance for widening doorways, a set of Offset Door Hinges are inexpensive and easy to install.

Adding accessibility to the entrance of a home with steps may not be as difficult as you think. Building a custom wooden wheelchair ramp is one option.

But if your home only has one or two small steps to clear, a suitcase ramp works well only when you need it. It’s portable and removable and can be transported in the trunk of a car.

Another option is a Pathway Ramp which can also be removed and stored when not in use.

The latter two solutions aren’t permanent but they will work when needed.

Visitability is something that most people don’t think about until they need it. And by that time it’s usually too late to do anything about it. If you may need to add visitability features to your home or the home of someone you know, it’s good to plan in advance so you’re ready when the time comes.

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